I have loved pitching all of my life. As a young athlete, it taught me to be a leader and a warrior, and now as a coach, wife, mother, business owner, not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for how the circle prepared me for life.
When I decided to follow my heart about 10 years ago and pursue coaching as a full time career, I imagined spending my days with young pitchers, showing them all the ways the circle could empower them as well. After opening S2 Breakthrough my work very much modeled what I expected, but as time went on, I realized that I was simply feeding into a broken system.
It began with the realization that coaching my pitchers in a traditional lesson format felt like I was micro-managing their performance. They were relying on me and my cues to perform. Parents loved my energetic, passionate approach but to me, something was missing – the passion and energy from the athletes. When I would go to games to watch some of my pitchers compete, they often looked like a very different version of the pitcher I knew in “lessons”. It became obvious to me that I had built a setup that prompted pitching as instant progress and the need for constant short-term success. When my pitchers were not experiencing that in competition, they were lost.
What I loved about my own journey as a pitcher was that it was just that – a journey. For as many highs as I experienced, I felt just as many lows. I had coaches and mentors, of course, but what the circle really taught me was that when you’re out there in competition, you rely on your belief in yourself, your experiences with both failure and success, and the resilience you progressively built in order to climb your way to the top.
The first major change I made to my lesson format was to move from individual to small group sessions. I thought that would teach my athletes how to accept ownership and accountability over their training and ultimately their journey as a pitcher. I felt like I was providing my athletes with a better way to train but something was still missing. It wasn’t the best. I knew I was falling short, but didn’t really understand why.
I was watching my business partner Krista evolve as a hitting coach. As MLB began investing in tech and research, hitting began to progress and softball, of course, benefited from that trickle down effect. Around the same time, we had our first clinic and presentation with Austin Wasserman of High Level Throwing. I quickly noticed a trend. Both Austin and Krista were looking at throwing/hitting in a very similar manner. It seemed obvious that teaching pitching should follow the same principles of human movement and energy transfer, but it wasn’t. Instead, we were passing on the same drills and workouts we had taught/been taught for decades.
I wanted to seek more knowledge, better knowledge about how to train pitchers. I started attending high level conferences with high level coaches/speakers and to be perfectly honest, it all felt stagnant. The talks surrounding training mimicked exactly what I was doing at S2, which mimicked exactly what I did as a pitcher 20 years ago. This couldn’t be right. I started to question things like overhand throwing as a sufficient warm-up, sprinting while pitching as a means to promote better mechanics, and why pitch counts were never discussed in softball.
This led me to start trying different approaches at S2 Breakthrough. It had become a mini lab for me. We started with prioritizing movement. Dynamic warm-ups, arm care and movement prep kicked off every training session. I chose movements that paralleled the pitching motion and began to talk to my athletes about the connection between the two. I felt like I was moving in the right direction with training but as soon as pitchers would begin pitching, I was still modeling what I had always done – the same drills, the same cues. So I started to question myself. How do I actually know that this stuff works? How do I know if these drills are effective or even correct?
About a year and a half ago Krista and I started to invest in some tech. We wanted data to challenge us and change the way we trained, coached and thought. And so the journey began.
S2 Breakthrough now houses a platform to build great movers in order to build great pitchers. Movement work doesn’t just supplement training, movement and strength work are the training. We now understand that pitching is just a sequence of highly coordinated movements. We’ve pulled those movements apart into their fundamental pieces and attack our athletes’ inefficiencies through individualized training. This is player development. You cannot pitch if you cannot move well, and you cannot maximize movement capability if you’re never assessed. To make your pitchers great, start from the bottom and build. Simply forcing pitchers into positions and drills they cannot manage is not the answer. Encourage the journey, not instant success or a secret formula. Be willing to change how you see and do things. It’s not about ego or being “right”. It’s about seeking more for our athletes and for the game we all love so much.